Two reclamation projects are drawing the attention of newspaper readers with contrasting views. The Manila Bay reclamation project is viewed with hope, while a section of the Mandaue reclaimed land is seen with contempt.
Over five years after I wrote on the need to reclaim part of the Manila Bay to help the capital in regaining its former glory, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada finally acceded after signing separate partnerships with private groups to reclaim huge swathes of the Manila Bay. Three groups—Manila Goldcoast Development Corp. owned by the family of chairman and chief executive William Tieng, SM Prime Holdings Inc. of retail tycoon Henry Sy Sr. and the Pasay Harbor City consortium led by Davao City-based Charlie Gonzales of Ulticon Builders—promised to generate valuable coastal real estate as well as provide employment and other economic opportunities in the two premier coastal cities in Metro Manila.
MGDC’s 148-hectare reclamation project in joint venture with the Manila city government covers the southern parcel of the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road and Reclamation Project-North Sector, also known as “Solar City’ Project.”
SM Prime’s 300-hectare and 60-hectare projects are in joint venture with the Pasay local government unit. Pasay Harbor City consortium’s 265-hectare Pasay Harbor City project, meanwhile, is also in joint venture with Pasay City.
The three reclamation projects will certainly generate employment and needed revenues to Manila and Pasay. MGDC’s Solar City Manila reclamation project, for one, will generate an estimated P50 billion in revenues and create 500,000 jobs once the Philippine Reclamation Authority issues a notice to proceed to the project.
The Manila component, says Estrada, is expected to start early next year, becoming the biggest reclamation project between the Manila-Pasay border in the south and Roxas Boulevard in the east. The project would cover around 3.5 kilometers of Manila Bay’s shoreline.
“Not only will these reclamation projects substantially increase the revenues of our city, it will also generate approximately 500,000 new jobs for our residents,” Estrada said.
MGDC hopes to duplicate the success of Singapore and Hong Kong in reclaiming lands and making them usable, on which more buildings and infrastructures could be built. The Marina Bay, Singapore Flyer and several financial centers now stand on Singapore’s reclaimed lands, luring more tourists and businessmen. Japan’s Kansai International Airport and Tokyo Bay area also sit on reclaimed lands.
The surrounding areas of the project, such as Ermita and Malate, will also benefit from the Solar City project in terms of higher value of their properties and increased business resulting from the influx of tourists, residents and workers in the area, MGDC said in a paper.
Over in Mandaue City, Cebu province, a furor has erupted over what clearly appears to be a real estate property steal.
Former Mandaue City mayor and current 6th District Rep. Jonas Cortes is at the center of a controversy for causing the sale of the city’s 3.5-hectare reclaimed property for a measly P50 per square meter in 2015.
Cortes approved the sale of the city’s property for just a total of P1,791,050. The buyer, Ecodemcor, achieved the coup considering the current value of the land is now around P12,000 per square meter.
Had the property been sold at the right value, Mandaue City would have gained around P429.8 million that could have been used for social services related to health, education and other programs.
On August 24, 2015, Ecodemcor, through its president Olga Ouano, informed then-mayor Cortes that it would exercise its right of first preference under the “Promise To Sell” initiative at a price of P50 per square meter.
The Promise To Sell is not binding to the city government, but Cortes forwarded Ouano’s offer to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on August 25, 2015 without first determining if the subject land has been classified as “alienable and disposable” and without consulting the city auditor or city assessor for appraisal of the land.
On September 16, 2015, or less than one month after Cortes made the offer, the Sangguniang Panglungsod recommended the disposal of the reclaimed land to Ecodemcor for P50 per square meter. And on September 18, 2015, or less than a month after he forwarded the offer, Cortes signed a deed of absolute sale in the amount of P1,791,050.
But the Mandaue City Legal Office last week recommended the nullification of the sale. “The Office finds that the sale and the facts leading to its sale to Ecodemcor of the 35,821 sqm. lot is void as the cause, object and purpose is against public policy for failure to follow protocol in accordance with established systems and procedures of concerned government agencies, and as mandated by law,” its resolution said.
The legal office in a 16-page report said the sale of city-owned property for P50 per square meter or a total of P1,791,050 to Ecodemcor in 2015 caused “economic prejudice to the city.”
“The city could validly move for the nullification of the contracts and demands for the restoration or return of the object of the contract,” the legal office said in its report, signed by city legal officer Omar Redula and other members of the office.
Cortes is now facing plunder charges for the disadvantageous sale of the 3.5-hectare land.
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